Republicans target Obama, Clinton on Benghazi attack
Parents of Sean Smith, an American killed in the Benghazi assault listen to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Counterterrorism Mark Thompson (R) testify. AP photoSteady drips of information about the deadly attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya last year are fueling Republican criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of the crisis as a diplomat revealed that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was never questioned by investigators looking into the attack.
Newly revealed communications on May 10 show that senior State Department officials pressed for changes in the talking points that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice used to explain the attack a few days after it occurred. These senior officials expressed concerns that Congress might criticize the Obama administration for ignoring warnings of a growing threat in Libya. The revelations are also bolstering ads designed to fire up the conservative base and undercut the Democrats’ early favorite for president in 2016 – Clinton.
Clinton was never questionned
The White House has insisted that it made only stylistic changes to the intelligence agency talking points, in which Rice suggested that spontaneous protests over an anti-Islamic video set off the attack. Rice and others eventually acknowledged that the Benghazi assault on Sept. 11, 2012, was a premeditated terrorist attack. Republicans say her Sept. 16 televised remarks were just the start of administration efforts to mislead Americans about what happened in Libya.
It was also revealed that Clinton was never questioned by investigators looking into the attack on the U.S. mission in Libya that claimed the life of the U.S. ambassador.
Ambassador Thomas Pickering, a head of the internal probe, said he and retired Adm. Mike Mullen interviewed Clinton near the end of their investigation into the attack but saw no need to question her about her role.
He said they knew and understood what she had done “because we had questioned people who had attended meetings with her what went on at those meetings and how they were handled, what was relevant. “I don’t believe that it was necessary to do that. I don’t think that there was anything there that we didn’t know,” Pickering said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” talk show.
The Benghazi mission came under attack on Sept. 11, 2012 by armed insurgents who set fire to the main consular facility and then attacked a nearby CIA annex. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed. As a result of the internal investigation into the security failures, two State Department officials were sacked and two others were placed under administrative leave. Democrats note that a major independent inquiry into Benghazi, issued in December, found that the State Department had badly mishandled security needs in Libya. But it blamed officials no higher than the assistant secretary of state level.
Revelations brought another round of conservative broadsides against Clinton, Obama and the administration’s handling of the Benghazi matter. Sen. Rand Paul, a possible Republican presidential contender, wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Times restating his view that Obama should have fired Clinton. Paul later said he thought the Benghazi affair “precludes Clinton from ever holding office.”
The conservative group American Crossroads released a 90-second video asking if Clinton was “part of a cover-up.”
Democrats have said Republicans are nakedly exploiting the Benghazi deaths, and voters will not like it. “Republicans are a desperate party right now, trying to do whatever they can to dirty up the president to make some gains in 2014, and to dirty up Secretary Clinton because they’re terrified she’ll walk into the White House,” said Democratic consultant Thornell.